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A Faithless Easter?

What calendar do you have hanging on your wall?  If you are like me it is probably a church calendar of some sort.  Recently, however, I happened to come across a calendar put out by the Canadian Wildlife Federation.  The interesting thing about this calendar was that it made the effort to mention the religious holidays for varying faiths.  For example, March 10th is Maha Shivarati.  I had never heard of this day before, but the calendar indicated that it is a holy day in the Hindu faith.  It does this by placing the word ‘Hindu’ in brackets beside the name of the celebration.   This occurs in many places.  April 14th for example reads “Vaisakhi (Sikh)”, and May 25th shows ‘Wesak (Buddhist).  Even the 25th of March contained the words “Passover Begins (Jewish).”

This is the first calendar that I have ever seen of its kind. Obviously not every religious holiday could be observed, but it was clear that this calendar was making an effort to recognize some of the main Holy Days for the most prominent faiths in Canada.  Because of this, I was all the more shocked and saddened to see what was written for March 31st.  As this day is the celebration of Easter, one would think that the calendar would list this day like all the others.   I was assuming I would find “Easter Sunday (Christian)” written on that day.  I was wrong.   March 31st simply read “Easter Sunday.”

Apparently, in the eyes of the calendar, Easter is not a holy day but one along the same lines as “The International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer” (September 16th).  No faith required.

This absence of Christian faith in this calendar wasn’t limited to Easter.  It was the same for Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, a non-existent Pentecost, and even Christmas.   Each of these days, of utmost importance to Christian faith, occurs without religious descriptor.  The calendar, interestingly enough, gives testimony that January 24th is “Prophet’s Birthday (Islam), but mentioning that Christmas is the Christian Celebration of the birth of our Saviour is apparently too much.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for an inter-religious or multi-faith calendar. In fact, it was quite fun researching the different celebrations.  I spent quite some time on Google learning about these different Holy Days.  The existence of other faith traditions on the calendar is not what is upsetting here. What is upsetting is the almost intentional manner in which Christian faith and identity is blatantly ignored.  The Christian story associated with these days were  completely separated from the day’s celebration.  The holy days of our faith are advertised as nothing more than civic celebrations.

I was all ready to write a post whereby I ranted upon this cultures rejection of Christianity.  I was going to raise my ire in righteous indignation over the blatant hostility that this calendar takes to the holy days of Christian faith.  Surely this calendar highlights this cultures subtle yet purposeful ebbing of Christian identity and story.  I was ready.  The computer was on and my hands were on the keys.

Yet then I asked myself, to what end would this serve?

It occurs to me that the challenge here is not to take on the calendar, but to live the Christian story myself. Easter is a holy day, not because we have so labeled it on a calendar, but because it is day in which we are reminded to set ourselves apart for Christ and his work in this world.   The celebration of Easter shouldn’t simply be about a word on a calendar. It should be about expressing the resurrection of Jesus in our life and witness.  It should be about testifying to the fact that Christ’s gifts of love, grace, forgiveness and salvation are available to each and every one of us.  We are reminded of the salvation gifted to us through the cross, not as a moment of past nostalgia, but of a present reality which defines us and forms us as the people of God.  The holiness of this day is not a special holiness, for the holiness of Easter is connected to the holiness with which we approach the rest of our lives.

So, who cares how a random calendar labels Easter, or any other holy day for that matter.  In the end, our faith isn’t about watching the calendar.  Nor is it about acknowledging holiness on our calendars but not in our lives.   Our faith is to be held, and lived out, in a much deeper manner.

How does the holiness of this day influence the holiness of our entire life?   How will we express the holiness of Easter through our life and actions this year?

May the joy of the resurrection be with you all.

Kyle Norman

About Kyle Norman

I am a Priest in the Diocese of Calgary, serving the wonderful people of Holy Cross, Calgary. I watch reality television, I drink Starbucks coffee, and I read celebrity gossip columns. I am also a magician and often use magic tricks to teach the children at church the lessons of the Bible. I believe that God is present in the intricacy of our lives, and thus I believe that Pop Culture can provide intriguing lessons, examples, and challenges for our lives of faith. Connect with Kyle on
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12 Responses to A Faithless Easter?

  1. In reading your article, I was thinking the opposite, actually. It seems to me that the calendar is recognizing that Canada is, as much as it is a religious country, Christian. The creators of the calendar likely knew that the default is Christian, no parentheses needed.

  2. Hmm. An interesting observation, Brian. In once sense, I think you’re right, and I made the same conclusion at first. However, it seems to me that an NGO would have been careful about making such assumptions. In the end, it may have had more to do with templates and publishers than a concious decision. But I think Kyle presents a good question: does it matter? Hmm.

  3. Kyle Norman

    Hi Brian.  I thought of that as well at first. But then why not mention Pentecost? or Maundy Thursday? or Ephiphany? Why not mention these holy days as well?  If the calendar is working on the basis that Christianity is so mainstreme that these days do not need descriptors, why not metion the other big days? 

    Another question would be, why add the religous descriptors to other widely understood relious holidays. If the calendar is basing their descriptors on the basis of what is generally understood in the culture, as you have suggested, then why add the descripter “Isalm” to Ramadan (July 9th)., or “Jewish”  To Hanukkah (Nov. 27th) for that matter. Surely these days are so much part of the general spiritual understanding of our culture, that they don’t need the religoius identifiers.

    But they have them.  So what you have is a calendar that promotes the religious identity of other faiths (good thing) while ignoring the religous and faith-story underpinnings of our own holy day and reduces them to mere civic days (bad thing).  I’m willing to bet that  Good friday is labelled on the calendar, because it’s a day off work, and not because it’s the day of the crucifixion.  It’s seen as a civic day – a Stat holiday rather than a faith-informed Holy Day. 

    Also, I would argue that we can no longer assume that people today are  by default part Christian – or at least have some latent christian understanding so that they some how implicitly know the story of faith.  I think that ship has sailed a long time ago, and we would do well to recognize it.

  4. Kyle Norman

    Hi Brian.  I thought of that as well at first. But then why not mention Pentecost? or Maundy Thursday? or Ephiphany? Why not mention these holy days as well?  If the calendar is working on the basis that Christianity is so mainstreme that these days do not need descriptors, why not metion the other big days? 

    Another question would be, why add the religous descriptors to other widely understood relious holidays. If the calendar is basing their descriptors on the basis of what is generally understood in the culture, as you have suggested, then why add the descripter “Isalm” to Ramadan (July 9th)., or “Jewish”  To Hanukkah (Nov. 27th) for that matter. Surely these days are so much part of the general spiritual understanding of our culture, that they don’t need the religoius identifiers.

    But they have them.  So what you have is a calendar that promotes the religious identity of other faiths (good thing) while ignoring the religous and faith-story underpinnings of our own holy day and reduces them to mere civic days (bad thing).  I’m willing to bet that  Good friday is labelled on the calendar, because it’s a day off work, and not because it’s the day of the crucifixion.  It’s seen as a civic day – a Stat holiday rather than a faith-informed Holy Day. 

    Also, I would argue that we can no longer assume that people today are  by default part Christian – or at least have some latent christian understanding so that they some how implicitly know the story of faith.  I think that ship has sailed a long time ago, and we would do well to recognize it.

  5. Hey Kyle,  An interesting blog.  Did you talk to anyone at the Wildlife Federation?  I can’t see where they thought this through very well.  Someone had to have approved the final proofs.  Canadians pretty much own Christmas and Easter as holidays independent of any religious connection.  I just can’t figure out why an organization like the Wildlife Federation has a big list of holidays on its calendar.  I’d have been fine with marking statutory holidays only or adding in trivia about animals or Canadian wildlife but I don’t know what faith has to do with wildlife.  Do they sell more calendars that way?  Lily P.

  6. Hey Kyle,  An interesting blog.  Did you talk to anyone at the Wildlife Federation?  I can’t see where they thought this through very well.  Someone had to have approved the final proofs.  Canadians pretty much own Christmas and Easter as holidays independent of any religious connection.  I just can’t figure out why an organization like the Wildlife Federation has a big list of holidays on its calendar.  I’d have been fine with marking statutory holidays only or adding in trivia about animals or Canadian wildlife but I don’t know what faith has to do with wildlife.  Do they sell more calendars that way?  Lily P.

  7. The easy response to this is: we live in a predominately Christian country because two of our major statutory days off are Christian, which is more than any other parenthesis day on the calendar can say. These dates are known as Christian by default. Even today.

    As for the descriptors of other religions, I assume it is added out of knowing that most will not know. For example, in 2001, just under  2% of people living in Canada identified as Muslim. The other 98% may need some help in knowing what Ramadan is. Hence the ().

    To put this into more numbers, as of 2001, 77% of Canadians identify as Christian. It is down from 1991, yes, and if it was asked it could be assumed it is down in 2011, but it is still by far the majority of the country. There is the separate question of active involvement in faith, but that is a different and deeper question than ( and ).

     

  8. Kyle Norman

    Hi Lily, the journey through the calendar was definately a strange one.  It was fascinating to see that the Wildlife calendar had religous holidays to it, but then jarring to see the discrpency with the days of our own tradition.  It definatley made for an interesting calendar.  you don’t expect Yom Kippur and Candian Rivers Day to be mentioned on the same calendar!

    Brian, we can use stats to prove anything . . 93 % of people know that. 🙂

    In seriousness that stats raise the point that I ended with (and Jesse pointed us to agian), our observance of Easter is not abouta  label on a calendar, but about the holiness with which we live out the Resurrection of Jesus in our lives. Sure 77% of people may recognize Easter of some thing to do with Christianity (although what it might be they may never be able to say), but is that what we are called to?

    In the end, how do I make my christian life not simply about a list of Holy Days, but about a continuous state of holy living?

  9. Exactly. I would focus less on the ( ) (or lack thereof) and more on the question you ask: ” how do I make my christian life not simply about a list of Holy Days, but about a continuous state of holy living?”

     

  10. Frankly speaking the most correct date of Easter is Gregorian. Because the reason of invention of the Gregorian calendar was the difference between the real astronomical full moons and the full moons shown in the calendar notes. But the joy of the holiday is much more important than the date of the holiday. That’s why if the Christians on the East celebrate Easter, as example for this year, on the 5th of May I will share their Easter joy as well. But personally I’m going to celebrate Easter this Sunday. Together with the Western Christians and, by the way, the believers of the Finnish Orthodox Church. That Church calculate Easter by the Western Gregorian tradition as well. So, it’s not a shame to celebrate Easter on the 31st of March for the Orthodoxes. If someone of them thought so before. As I said: the joy of Easter is more important than the date of Easter. Christ is risen. And it happened not in this March or May. It happened more than 2000 years ago.

    Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Stay peaceful and joyful.

  11. Well said, @Elijah_Bortnikov: to include Western Easter is to exclude Orthodox Easter. He is risen, indeed.

  12. Good Friday is a civic holiday in Canada. Easter isn’t, since it’s on a Sunday, but I suspect it is included to go with Good Friday (and in some provinces, also Easter Monday). Everyone gets the day (or days) off, so Good Friday is not exclusively a Christian thing. Hence no “Christian” in parenthesis. Good Friday is not a holiday in the US federally, nor in all but a handful of states–even though more people go to church regularly in the US than in Canada. Is that what your complaint is about? We’re not being treated like other religions. Indeed we are not. By having some of our holy days as civic holidays, Christians are especially privileged in Canada–hardly ignored.

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